Q. In tight financial times, how would you choose which programs are worth saving?

Roger Biede III: Difficult financial times and budget cuts call for hard decision to be made. There are no easy decisions when it come to determining which programs to keep and which to cut or limit funding to. Each determination needs to me made with careful scrutiny of the effects on students, the effects on teachers, and the overall educational plans of the school. There are no simple answers when budget cuts are required and that is exactly why we need quality and knowledgeable individuals to help make those tough choices.

Bob Dailey: ALL programs are worth saving. We look at all of them and try to keep as many as we can afford and that we have staff to coordinate.

Sherri Jones: I would first want to utilize data analysis and comprehensive fiscal management practices as the key drivers for tough financial decisions. As a potential board member tasked with the responsibility of supporting critical financial decisions impacting FUSD, the strategic plan and student achievement goals, it would be necessary to have an analysis of the budget. Allowing for review of where and how funding is being allocated. Next, participating in discussions that keep to guiding principles that support decision-making with student health, safety, and education at the center. Advocating for frequent, transparent discussions that incorporate community feedback. Finally, compiling all data sources to make student focused decisions that avoid the most disruptive impact.

Tammy Quist: No one likes to think about cutting programs and services in schools, but sometimes we must make these difficult decisions. This should be done through a series of collaborative conversations that always center on which cuts least negatively impact students. Data can lead the way – when money is spent on programs or practices that do not yield expected results, we might consider those items first. Children first.

Q. How would you most like to see FUSD schools improve during your term of service on the board?

Biede: FUSD faces some stiff challenges in the coming years and I hope to be a part of the team that successfully tackles them head on. I believe that a quality education for current and future students and would look for FUSD to continue to improve graduation rates and test scores. I support keeping our staff compensation competitive with national standards and would also look for schools to expand advanced placement classes that will challenge our youth and prepare them for the future. Similarly, I would also like to see more attention paid is to the special needs curriculum for those uniquely designed students that might need more attention and direction. We need to prepare every youth in our district for a successful future.

Dailey: FUSD has come so far in the past 14 years... we now have almost 10,000 kids. We are constantly adding curriculum, technology and new tools for kids and teachers to give a better education and experience. This is a never-ending process and I always want FUSD to be the leader in bringing in the best for ALL OF OUR KIDS!

Jones: It would be helpful to conduct an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of FUSD. Given the adjustments that have had to be implemented for 2020, I am sure the school district is reevaluating the old and new models for conducting “business”. Utilizing data, student, and family feedback, one can make a better assessment of opportunities for improvement that align with the FUSD mission and vision. As a potential member that brings representation of early childhood education, I would like to see community outreach that support kindergarten readiness for families with young children. Additionally, an increased emphasis on social emotional support and mental health resources, especially following the impact from COVID-19. Finally, strategic efforts focused on increasing teacher retention and recruitment.

Quist: I first want to collect data to determine where improvements are needed. This can be done through conversations with parents, community members, students, and school personnel, as well as through observation and data analysis. Tracking data will help us determine goals and action plans.

Our schools should provide a world-class education for all students. This means that every student receives a rigorous education, they gain essential critical thinking skills, and can successfully navigate whatever post-graduate options they wish to pursue.

To do this, we need the absolute best classroom teachers and school staff. We are currently experiencing a teacher shortage in Arizona, exacerbated by the pandemic, which negatively impacts students. Hiring, supporting, and retaining excellent teachers and school staff must be a high priority for our district.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This the last in a series of articles on the candidates running for three open seats on the Florence Unified School District Governing Board. The candidates responded in writing to questions from the Florence Reminder. Typos and grammar are the candidates’ own. Every candidate in this race is a write-in. The General Election is Nov. 3.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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